Keys to creating a happy marriage
What were you doing 43 years ago this week? I was starting the rest of my life. At the time, I thought I was all grown up. But looking back, I was so young, only 23 years old.
I probably wasn’t unusual in not realizing exactly what I was agreeing to when I said, “I do.” Who knows what the future holds?
I was in love. Still am.
I was seeking a grand adventure. Got that!
I was looking for a happily ever after. Got that too. However, since I’ve said “I do,” I’ve realized happily ever after doesn’t occur without a bit of intentional living.
Yes, after living a day-by-day life with my husband, I’ve come to understand that I may not know everything, but when it comes to marriage—especially my marriage—I’m an expert. I've discovered that a good marriage doesn't happen by accident.
Here are some principles that I’ve learned in over four decades that have helped to make my marriage work:
Faith + marriage = a better chance at a successful union. We were in love but didn't really consider marriage until we got serious about God. Once our priorities were established, our life unfolded in a beautiful, blessed way I would have never imagined. Through better or worse, when you both serve the same God and have the same values, you've got a compass to keep you moving in the right direction, together.
Your marriage must be a priority. You’ve got to place your marriage on a pedestal and keep it shiny and protect it against all the world throws at two people who are just trying to make a go of it. No one else (except your spouse) cares about your marriage. If it’s going to be a success, it’s got to be a priority. Give your spouse the best—the best of your time, the best of your attention, the best of your attitude. When you got married, you made a commitment. It's up to you to make that commitment solid and unshakable.
Let it go. Don’t pick, pick, pick. Guess what? After living with someone for more than a few months you pick up on their quirks. Nagging is counterproductive, and no one wants to be around a nag. It’s a waste of time and a drain on emotions. The crazy thing is that we often want to pick on inconsequential behavior. Here’s my dirty little secret: I once was annoyed with my husband because after he did the laundry and put all the clothes away, he left the dresser drawers open by ½ inch! The nerve of him. I had to close those drawers! It took me about 15 seconds to realize how stupid my complaint was. Besides, I know I’m not perfect either.
Be nice. Of all the people in your world, you should treat your spouse best. Period.
Don’t flirt with anyone except your spouse. Enough said.
Laugh together, every day. If you can find humor in the day-to-day business of living as well as the down-and-out moments we all have, you’ll make your day and your marriage brighter.
Respect one another. This is especially a biggie for men. Men equate respect with love. Respect fuels and warms a relationship.
Don’t compare. No marriage is alike. Just because your friend’s husband buys her flowers weekly doesn’t mean they have a happier marriage. My honey is not a flower-buying guy, but at the beginning of the week, he makes sure my car is fueled and I’ve got washer fluid in the reservoir. That may not be the grandest romantic gesture, but it does it for me.
Being right isn’t so important. Too easily, little disagreements can blow out of proportion. No one is 100% right all the time. Not you, not your husband. So suck it up and button your lip. This falls under the pick-your-battle category. Give yourself a break, and give up stupid disagreements.
Never speak poorly about your spouse. Never. Never. Never. This goes back to principle #3 and principle #4.
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, and that’s okay. That’s life. Marriage, like life, has its ups and downs. Some days are just so-so, and that’s normal. Deal with it.
Someone has to keep a cool head. When troubles come or a challenge presents itself, you both can’t let emotions rule. Somebody has to keep a cool head. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s your honey. Emotions fuel unexpected consequences. Cool it.
Hang out together. Find something to enjoy with one another. Go for walks. Do the dishes together. Watch a TV series together and chat about it. Keep talking and keep doing stuff together. Even if it's not the most exciting stuff, you're being a couple.
Express gratitude. No one likes to feel taken for granted. Say the words, “thank you!”
Always respond. When your spouse speaks to you, answer. It's respectful and loving.
No one is a mind reader. If something is important to you or something is bothering you, you've got to speak up.
Remember fun moments. Sometimes one of us will bring up a happy memory. It’s a good practice to recall the fun times, it gives you a warm feeling and a stronger connection to your husband. Sharing good memories cement a relationship.
Expect the good times to continue. Find something to look forward to together. If you expect more happy moments to occur and more wonderful memories to be made, you’re moving in the right direction, together.
Don't neglect your intimate moments. Connecting physically helps to keep your bond strong.
Want to know about the start of our story?
On my wedding day, January 13, 1979, I awoke to an overcast day. Less than a month before, my honey and I made the decision to live for Christ. It changed our lives! We had been living together for nearly a year, and after our decision to live for Jesus, we lived "separately" until our wedding day.
Snow wasn't predicted, but as I prepared to meet my groom, it began to fall, and fall, and fall. By the time we got to the church, there was already a foot of snow. Fortunately, my dad had his golf umbrella and was ready for the challenge of getting me inside the church relatively dry. (Yes, open-toe sandals were popular—even for winter.)
Meanwhile, Carl flipped open his Bible. The passage his gaze fell upon was Isaiah 1:18. "Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow." Such a beautiful promise!
Such a great 43 years of adventure, traveling through the ups and downs of life together. I'm blessed, and I know it.
Carl's family rented a Greyhound bus to drive up from Long Island to Wynantskill, NY, where I grew up. We hopped aboard and rode with everyone to our reception. Fun memories!
*This is another encore post that I enjoy sharing every year. I add to it each year as I consider more points to make in creating a good marriage.